It’s quite hard to imagine the world of country music without the enormous impact and influence Gene Watson has made on it. His skill of delivering powerful vocal performances and effortlessly drawing all the emotion from his selected material made him one of the most revered country artists throughout the decades.
While Watson’s star started fading as the ’80s came to a close, he never stopped working. He continued to record and perform while remaining true to his Texas music roots.
Check out these facts about Gene Watson.
1. He’s a native of Palestine, Texas.
Born Gary Gene Watson on October 11, 1943, the country singer is one of seven siblings. They lived in an old school bus remodeled by his father for living quarters and transportation from job to job. They moved around Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
While Watson grew up poor – where he had to work from the time he was six, doing jobs from digging potatoes to picking cotton – the country singer noted that they were a happy family.
2. He grew up in a close-knit musical family.
Watson said that he could remember singing as far back as he can remember talking.
The family members sang in the local Pentecostal Church as well as with each other for their own pure pleasure of music. His father played guitar and blues harmonica, leading to Watson’s love for blues music.
3. He always wanted to work on cars.
Watson’s love for cars and trucks began when he got a job picking up scrap metal at a car junkyard. During his teen years, he supported his family by doing auto body repairs.
4. He got a standing ovation during his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.
When country music duo The Wilburn Brothers heard Watson singing at a nightclub in Houston, they invited him to go with them. So, Watson did a couple of shows with The Wilburn Brothers in Nashville and North Carolina.
The duo also got Watson on the Grand Ole Opry, where he received a standing ovation for his performance of Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love With You” and “It Is No Secret What God Can Do.”
5. His voice became even better as he aged.
And the singer said it’s because he learned to take care of it properly. He admitted to drinking a lot and smoking like a freight train but gave up all that.
6. He was diagnosed with cancer.
In 2000, Watson was diagnosed with colon cancer – where he went through surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, he didn’t have insurance, so Watson had to work throughout his illness. He stayed on the road and even re-recorded some of his hits. Two years later, he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
Indeed, he’s one of a kind. When you take a look at Gene Watson songs recorded since the early 1960s, you’ll feel his absence from the genre would leave a gaping hole in your heart. Of course, other artists could have recorded these country classics, but never with the same power and intensity Watson has given to them.